A Susceptible Mouse Model for Zika Virus Infection

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2016 May 5;10(5):e0004658. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0004658. eCollection 2016 May.


Zika virus (ZIKV) is a mosquito-borne pathogen which has recently spread beyond Africa and into Pacific and South American regions. Despite first being detected in 1947, very little information is known about the virus, and its spread has been associated with increases in Guillain-Barre syndrome and microcephaly. There are currently no known vaccines or antivirals against ZIKV infection. Progress in assessing interventions will require the development of animal models to test efficacies; however, there are only limited reports on in vivo studies. The only susceptible murine models have involved intracerebral inoculations or juvenile animals, which do not replicate natural infection. Our report has studied the effect of ZIKV infection in type-I interferon receptor deficient (A129) mice and the parent strain (129Sv/Ev) after subcutaneous challenge in the lower leg to mimic a mosquito bite. A129 mice developed severe symptoms with widespread viral RNA detection in the blood, brain, spleen, liver and ovaries. Histological changes were also striking in these animals. 129Sv/Ev mice developed no clinical symptoms or histological changes, despite viral RNA being detectable in the blood, spleen and ovaries, albeit at lower levels than those seen in A129 mice. Our results identify A129 mice as being highly susceptible to ZIKV and thus A129 mice represent a suitable, and urgently required, small animal model for the testing of vaccines and antivirals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Receptor, Interferon alpha-beta / deficiency
  • Receptor, Interferon alpha-beta / genetics
  • Receptor, Interferon alpha-beta / metabolism*
  • Zika Virus / classification*
  • Zika Virus / pathogenicity
  • Zika Virus Infection / immunology*
  • Zika Virus Infection / pathology
  • Zika Virus Infection / virology*


  • Ifnar1 protein, mouse
  • RNA, Viral
  • Receptor, Interferon alpha-beta

Grant support

This work was funded by a Public Health England Grant-In-Aid project. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.